Sprout design decisions - remote and digital inputs


#1

Hi Scott, Paul and everyone on the forum,

I am one of the Sprout backers and am looking forward to seeing how this initiative evolves and helps people get closer to music. Sprout is a great first step. However, I feel that if a couple of design choices were different, Sprout would certainly delight a broader customer base.

  • I would assume most of the “new” customer base, the 20-30 somethings you are targeting will not require MM input. Therefore add another Coax or Optical input based on your architecture.

  • Most people (almost all of the new customer base) will eventually get frustrated due to a lack of remote - its really inconvenient if the unit is used in living rooms and bed rooms. Why not add an optional remote and charge say $30 for a simple remote that matches the unit and rework your packaging.

  • If the remote cannot be added to the MM version, I would suggest you replace the MM input with a remote and let customers decide what they want (I’m not an engineer and would know much about costs for all these options but cannot think why you couldn’t come up with a good solution)

  • You may want to differentiate from the MM version by offering a higher power (say double the power) all digital version with remote and charge a premium for it - say $200 extra ($999 retail) and you could pretty much use this to reboot your campaign. For the kick starter campaign make this a $100 option for current and new backers.

  • If the above causes a bit of a delay - say 1 or 2 months - its probably going to be acceptable to most

Now you may say these are design considerations given the size of the unit and I would say its a technical problem waiting for an intelligent solution :slight_smile:

I’m sure there are lots of ways and you’ve probably thought about all this and made your design choices, but then the only thing that is constant is change.

Look forward to your responses. This your opportunity to make Sprout even more relevant to your target customers, hope you take it.

Good luck,

ozinsing.


#2

Welcome, ozinsing!

My guess is that many in the Sprout demographic are spinning vinyl. Vinyl’s popularity in this age group appears to be more than a fad, and they do seem to be interested in the sound. Thus, a good phono pre housed in a good amp which also handles digital well strikes me as a great idea.


#3

Thanks Elk. I absolutely agree that the feature set as offered by Sprout is brilliant, hence one of the reasons I backed it :slight_smile:

However, to appeal to a broader customer base especially in international markets, I think a remote is important from a user experience perspective and having an additional digital input will not hurt. I am envisioning this as an option for customers, and a chargeable one given the cost base would be different. I couple that with higher power to provide enough of a justification for the price premium - but then I am no pricing or engineering specialist, just a humble customer.


#4

In case it got missed, Scott had something to say about remotes over on the Let’s Welcome Sprout Into the World thread:

Scott McGowan said
Philip said I like it.

Given that this product is aimed at the Millenials, wouldn’t a remote be considered mandatory? There aren’t many audio components around today that aren’t remote controlled. I just wonder if Millenials could be turned off by the lack of a remote. Just sayin.

Certainly a huge consideration, one that we grappled with for months. Ultimately, this is a hands-on lifestyle piece that I want to touch. And before I wax rebellious on the remote control, I’ll say that with bluetooth of course start/stop/select and gain control is done at the phone. I use the analog-in for my television, and then disable the TV’s internal speakers and just use the TV’s remote. And for vinyl, well, I have to get up to flip that record anyway.

Did I say I’m rebelling against the remote? Just a little. My bloody air conditioner has a remote control. That was the last strawwink


#5

One of the big selling points for me is the MM input.

Why do you need so many digital inputs? Digital from your tv seems like a waste. If I really want to connect it, I’ll just use the analog in or if that isn’t possible an optical to coax converter. The idea is to keep things simple. Start adding more inputs and it’s just going to turn into another large black box.

Another digital input isn’t going to happen though. As Scott has said “no room”.

Scott pretty much hit the nail on the head for why he isn’t including a remote.


#6

Thanks SF, tulz43

I missed the comments around remote in the other post. And when I think it about it, you are right on number of digital inputs, they do seem sufficient at least in my case.

The feature set is pretty well thought of and that is one of the reasons the support has been phenomenal. I wish the team luck and look forward to receiving the unit in September.


#7

As one of the last Kickstarter backers (and maybe the one to complete the 400.000 $ milestone), I’d like to thank Scott for the elaborate concept. Sprout wouldn’t have been my choice without MM input, or without USB or SP/DIF input. And I trust you and PS Audio to deliver top quality at a very reasonable price.

But there’s one thing that really, really annoys me: the lack of a volume remote control. To make full use of Sprout’s advantages, I need to rearrange furniture in my room. Something my Wife only permits because it’s my room.

Scott, please don’t think about packaging, or badges for the first 100 pieces sold. Think about your customers who became used to remote controls. Think about an upgrade (maybe as service option), think about a Mk II version with remote. But don’t assume your customers are young enough to stand up and turn the volume knob, or just use Sprout as desktop amplifier, or just sit close enough.

Well, I will rearrange my room, but how many other potential customers refused to back your project, just because there is no remote?


#8

It would seem important for many manufacturers to bear in mind that not everyone has a Smartphone. According to a recent study, Smartphones account for about 66% of the US market. http://www.comscore.com/Insights/Press-Releases/2014/3/comScore-Reports-January-2014-US-Smartphone-Subscriber-Market-Share

Yes, that’s the majority, however, it also means that millions of people do not use Smartphones. Food for thought.

Perhaps a future Sprout+ or Sprout2 (name options?) could have an optional remote, but then that would mean more circuitry inside, which isn’t necessarily easy.


#9

@mussigg - I don’t really see the remote as that much of a problem. Yea it would be nice to have. But not worth the cost. Nor would I want it to change the quality of the volume pod on the sprout. From what I’ve read Scott put a lot of effort into picking one.

You did say you got it because of the MM input. You have to get up to put a record on, turn it over, select a track, lift the needle, etc, etc. If you are using Bluetooth you have remote control of the volume in your hand. If you are using the dac your phone can most likely control all remote functions through the computer.

@SF - I bet of the 66% that do make up that statistic are in the bracket Scott is targeting.


#10

I too thought about the lack of remote when I read the specs before funding this effort. Then something struck me. The remote would only be able to perform two functions. It could provide a selection for the input and it could control the volume. I do the former when I am setting up the media stream I would want to listen to (for a while) and the latter pretty much at the same time. When I thought about my use of other remote controls, by far the two functions I perform are:

  • Mute a live broadcast --or--
  • Pause a recorded performance
These almost always happen when something intrudes upon my listening experience (phone rings, neighbor at the door, etc...). As long as all of my inputs have a remote control, I don't think I need a separate one for the Sprout. Turns out that other than my turntable, everything else does have a remote.

Just speaking for myself, I don’t think this is a feature I’ll miss.


#11
tulz43 said I bet of the 66% that do make up that statistic are in the bracket Scott is targeting.
I'd bet that the percentage of Smartphone users is substantially higher in the demographic that Scott's targeting.

#12

Thanks for all your responses. Seems we will not find a common agreement - that’s life! Nevertheless I’d like to explain my point of view a little bit more in detail.

Regarding vinyl: yes, I need to go to my turntable to flip records, select tracks etc… But while listening (especially in the evening, when my family is asleep), there is always a need for me to adjust volume, to adapt to pianissimo and fortissimo. Unlike some AVRs, Sprout does (luckily!) not have a “night mode” to crop dynamics. Volume control for vinyl playback is the thing I am missing most.

Regarding digital in (Smartphone, Streamer) I agree that the majority of devices has integrated volume adjustment. Since you may like to skip tracks, or change records with your playback device, a separate remote for Sprout does not really make sense (as long as you do not use a “universal” remote). But keep in mind that most digital volume controls reduce dynamics. Maybe you will notice it, maybe you won’t.

To have remote control as an option is not a big thing. There are standard motor pots and small control units/PCBs available in a big variety, you just need to prepare the interfaces while designing the amplifier’s main PCB. No big cost involved, and you still have the choice. I know that Scott selected especially this one potentiometer, to have a nice look and feel, but maybe there’s a motor version as well?

In our house, the smartphones count to 50% of the users. My wife hates them, but she loves vinyl…

Just my 2 cents…


#13

SF- that’s what I mean. I didn’t word it that well.


#14

Your comment made sense to me. :)


#15

And when I re-read it (a bit more carefully), it made perfect sense to me, too.


#16

Haha. Thanks guys!


#17

Seems to me that there is justification for a number of different sprouts, each with a mix of inputs. For example:

  • existing vinyl / analogue / digital / bluetooth

  • digital / bluetooth only

  • digital / analogue only

I would buy the latter of these, but not the other versions, including the existing version.


#18

Adding those kinds of variations would significantly increase development and production costs. I’m not sure I understand why you object to having vinyl and Bluetooth inputs, even if you won’t use them. Could you elaborate? For example, do you want more digital and analog inputs than currently fit, an analog in with RCA jacks, etc.?